Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane Melbourne, Victoria 3000
|Opening hours||Dessert menu Mon-Sat, 6pm-late|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 8080 8827|
Let us make like a French art-house film and start this review at the end, because Om Nom is not a restaurant in the conventional sense but a dessert bar - a high-end fantasy stuffed with all the whimsy and nostalgia expected of the modern pastry chef.
Aimed at the class of people for whom savoury courses are a mere formality before the real action begins, Om Nom delivers follies such as white chocolate fashioned into an apple painted the brilliant green of a Grimms' fairytale, topped with a stem of dark chocolate and earthed in a toasty rubble of caramelised white chocolate.
It is the diner's job to smash through the thin shell to expose the innards: diced apple poached in ginger and lemongrass, which colludes with yuzu-spiked caramel and vanilla ice-cream.
Or there's something called a mango alfonso (named for the variety of Indian mango prized for its rich sweetness), which stars mango cream-stuffed profiteroles sandwiched with glossy fondant icing and painted chocolate discs, and jauntily topped with a ball of shiso and mango. Coconut comes to the party as well - there are little white spheres that explode in the mouth into coconut cream, and a coconut and lemongrass foam - and here's hoping you have a sweet tooth calibrated at the level of a five-year-old's birthday party (although if you don't, what the hell are you doing at a dessert bar?)
Excess is implicit throughout Om Nom's nine-strong dessert menu - not to mention the support act of cocktails that riff on edible classics with names such as cherry ripe and banoffee pie. Desserts are freer to flit above the savoury rules of proportion and balance, and pastry chef Christy Tania, who arrived from France two years ago to work at Sake and has also clocked in at Vue de Monde and Jacques Reymond, works her craft with all the tricks of the trade and nary a salted caramel macaron in sight.
Trendspotters and Eater lurkers will have noticed dessert bars blipping faintly on the radar from Spain and New York. They haven't exactly made it there, so they probably won't make it anywhere, but the signs are stronger for Om Nom thanks to the Adelphi providing life support. The reborn boutique hotel tucks its dessert dalliance in the back of the foyer, where it looks like a high-class Seoul disco, all shiny surfaces and glittery walls and leather-clad tables that remind you the Adelphi left everyone in its designer dust when it opened in the 1980s.
I guess the dessert bar is really the express elevator to fine dining's end point. The apple sphere, for example, is very Press Club; the raspberry village, with its meringue toadstools, and the basil garden are both reminiscent of Nic Poelaert's ''forest floor'' at Brooks. The pineapple verrine is more conventional: a layered, vaguely Asian-leaning trifle with pineapple poached in star anise and cardamom, red pepper jelly and mascerated strawberries.
The surprising thing about Om Nom is that the savoury end holds up pretty well. It can't hope to compete with the glamour of twisted gold leaf and the trilling prettiness of meringue fungi, so it has sensibly put together a succinct menu that plays second fiddle without being boring about it. There are spongy pink lobes of caramelised foie gras with goat's curd and fig; or scallops on baby spears of asparagus and a minty-bright scattering of pink peppercorns; or antipasto that plays a little too hard on the sweet-savoury crossover. Rockmelon sorbet with spears of candied prosciutto melted into a sad puddle because no one knew what to do with it, but bacon foam (with milkshake straw), which sounds uncompromisingly awful, actually tastes far better.
Om Nom meanders a bit like a French art-house film. It takes a long time to get the show on the road - drinks, menus, ordering, food. On the plus side, it is the kind of place where your neighbour might pop over to inspect your pineapple verrine. Enough said.
The best bit One for the sweet camp.
The worst bit Service is slooow.
Go-to dish Mango alfonso, $23.